Casting an eye to super-council future

BY JIM CHIPP
Last updated 11:00 20/11/2012

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What might a Wellington super-city-lite look like? Before the region's councils are reorganised it may be worth considering who might sit on a powerful new regional council as proposed by the governance review panel.

Lord Mayor

Sir Geoffrey Palmer's quaintly- titled Lord Mayor idea has been greeted with widespread derision so it's hardly likely one will ever wear the chain, but there does need to be some kind of head honcho.

The pretenders are likely to be led by Wellington Mayor Celia Wade-Brown and regional council chairwoman Fran Wilde.

The elevated standing of the new position, even if falls short of nobility, could be enough to attract at least one Parliamentary politician.

Long-serving Rongotai and Kapiti MP Annette King had her tilt at greatness as Phil Goff's deputy in Labour's 2011 campaign, but that was an unmitigated disaster. Expect her to be considering some new career options.

Wilde is a seasoned campaigner at all levels - MP, minister and Wellington mayor. She was comfortably elected to her current position and probably would be again to the bigger council.

Wellington has 40 per cent of the regional population and would get four seats on the 10-member council.

Wade-Brown is bound to have a go.

She has a high profile, hasn't offended anyone since her election and Wellingtonians appear to have some green sympathies so she'll probably be the first elected.

Andy Foster was Wellington's highest-polling councillor for many elections, and would be a shoo-in.

John Morrison is a former Black Cap and radio commentator so name recognition should see him home.

The fourth councillor is harder to pick.

Low-polling councillors Paul Bruce and Daran Ponter won't have much hope, though Ponter would make an excellent representative.

One-time Education Review Office head and former acting health board chairwoman Judith Aitken was the third-highest polling candidate in 2010.

Chris Laidlaw is a former All Black great, short-term MP, Rhodes Scholar, diplomat and Race Relations Conciliator, with a strong profile. He was second- polling councillor behind Ms Wilde. Although he has yet to make the same impact at the council he had as All Black halfback, the name-recognition factor is likely to win him the last council seat.

Wellington City Council appears to have a revolving policy on governance.

First it trumpeted its Colmar Brunton poll results, which found that 58 per cent were opposed to any boundary changes and only 10 per cent favoured a super-city. Last week council chief executive Garry Poole pronounced that a regional super-city was the only way to go.

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Hutt City will have two seats and, when the music stops, popular mayor Ray Wallace will without a doubt have planted his behind in the first.

Garrulous deputy mayor David Bassett and councillors Ross Jamieson of Eastbourne, Christopher Milne and Max Shierlaw might fancy their chances against the three incumbents, Peter Glensor, Prue Lamason and Sandra Greig.

Although Greig commands a substantial grey vote, Glensor was the highest-polling of the three and he came close to taking the Hutt mayoralty from John Terris.

Wallace and Glensor would most likely win.

Porirua would have one seat, and odds- on favouring to take it would be Mayor Nick Leggett, who may also be heir-apparent to the top job when Wilde leaves.

Neither of Porirua/Tawa's two regional councillors, Jenny Brash or Barbara Donaldson, have Leggett's current profile or energy, and deputy mayor Liz Kelly is not popular.

Former deputy mayor Litea Ah Hoi polled very well in 2010 but didn't come close to Leggett. With him out of the picture, watch for her to tilt for the local mayoralty.

Kapiti will also have a single seat and it is likely to be a three- way battle between Mayor Jenny Rowan, former mayor candidate Chris Turver and regional council incumbent Nigel Wilson. Rowan has been very tainted by the Kapiti water meter fiasco and Wilson is likely to slip through on the rails.

Upper Hutt Mayor Wayne Guppy was elected in 2010 with a huge majority and he would be a front runner for the single regional seat.

Deputy mayor Peter McCardle has a decent profile as a former MP but has a fulltime job in Health Minister Tony Ryall's office.

Former government minister Paul Swain was comfortably elected to the current regional council, but Guppy's 2010 margin makes him clear favourite.

Wairarapa would get one seat and would provide the most interesting contest.

Carterton Mayor and ex-MP Ron Mark has the highest profile. Masterton Mayor Garry Daniell has the biggest constituency but does not command widespread respect.

Gary McPhee is the regional councillor and has been mayor of Carterton. He can't be written off because he managed to unseat the council's former chairman, Ian Buchanan.

South Wairarapa Mayor Adrienne Staples is very popular and will probably have a go.

She is likely to be everybody's second choice. If Mark can't win outright victory at the first count under the single transferable vote election, and he is not likely to, Staples will pip him under a later one.

The only thing likely to upset that prediction would be Daniell scratching.

He could well see a better opportunity as mayor of a unified Wairarapa council, and that would avoid a split vote between him and Mark.

Despite public submissions favouring a unified territorial authority for Wairarapa with the the regional council retained to provide public transport and flood protection, the three councils have spoken against the Palmer report.

They want a Wairarapa unitary authority also controlling their region's environment and transport. That may be driven by rural councillors objecting to urbanites telling them what they can and can't dump in waterways.

No doubt whichever of the mayors wins the regional council seat, they would manage to overcome their righteous indignation to accept the salary and perks.

Central Community Newspapers' probable council: Head honcho - Fran Wilde, councillors Andy Foster, Peter Glensor, Wayne Guppy, Chris Laidlaw, Nick Leggett, John Morrison, Adrienne Staples, Celia Wade- Brown, Ray Wallace and Nigel Wilson.

WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?

Possible local government reform in the Wellington region and Sir Geoffrey Palmer's governance panel report will go to Wellington Regional Council for formal discussion and decisions at a future meeting but how and when have not been decided.

Mayors, councillors and community board members from every local body in the region will have an opportunity to discuss options for reform when Local Government New Zealand has its scheduled Zone 4 meeting on November 21. Greater Wellington is likely to fix its decision-making process after that.

- Kapi-Mana News

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